Well this announcement is indicative of the current status of the Irish language in Ireland. The planned, televised leaders’ debate on TG4 seems to have been all but abandoned after Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams TD, a near-fluent adult learner of Irish, and the Labour Party’s Joan Burton TD, an anglophone non-speaker, suggested fluent substitutes for the live broadcast in the form of Pearse Doherty TD, the SF party finance spokesperson and a native-speaker, and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Labour’s minister of state for new communities, culture and equality. Fianna Fáil refused to participate in the altered format, arguing instead for a two-way debate between it’s leader, Micheál Martin TD, and Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny TD, both fluent Irish-speakers. Unfortunately FG refused to permit a one-on-one debate between Martin and the Taoiseach, knowing that Kenny might well fluff his lines in any language, insisting on a four-person debate between the party leaders or their deputies. FF set it’s face against this again so, as of now, it seems the general election of 2016 will be marked by no discussions in the national language between the political leaders standing for Dáil Éireann.
“The new arrangement will involve searching one-on-one interviews with Mr Kenny and Mr Martin, followed by a segment involving Mr Ó Ríordáin and Mr Doherty.
Sources in TG4 said the outcome was disappointing but it was the only realistic option it had, once two parties suggested substitutes.
A spokesman for Fianna Fáil said that was either a leaders’ debate or not and it would not worked as substitutes were being proposed by Labour and Sinn Féin.
The spokesman said that Mr Martin was willing to participate in a two-way leaders debater but that seemingly was not acceptable to Fine Gael.
For its part, the Fine Gael spokeswoman said the two formats the party had suggested involved four leaders or seven leaders. She said when that was not possible no other proposals were put to the party.
In 2011, in what might transpire to be a unique moment in Irish politics, the leaders of the three major parties took part in a full debate in Irish on TG4. It involved Mr Kenny, Mr Martin and the then leader of the labour Party Eamon Gilmore.
The quality of the debate and the exchanges were widely praised at the time.”
Given the reputation for tough questioning gained by TG4’s news team in the leaders’ debate of 2011 it is perhaps unsurprising that more than one party leader was searching for a way out of it, while hopefully embarrassing some of his or her opponents for their lack of Irish proficiency. Whatever the case, the only real looser here is the indigenous language of our island nation and the citizens and communities who speak it.
The second-class Irish must retreat to the back of the studio again.